The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was an innovator on many fronts. Not only did it bring the beloved series into the 3D world for the first time, but it also created gameplay mechanics which have been reused and imitated in many other games since. One element which is not mentioned as much is Nintendo's experimentation with deeper storytelling. Before Ocarina of Time, the series limited its plot to minimal in-game dialogue or relegated it to the instruction manual. Ocarina of Time brought it to the forefront, packing the game with swift but powerful cut scenes and memorable characters. Every part of the world it inhabits seems lived-in and hides details which tell us a little bit more about the legend itself.
On top of the game, we now have access to resources official and unofficial, as well as encyclopedias and interviews, to add even more characteristics to an already rich world. Such a trove of information can become overwhelming, and it’s easy to miss some of the smaller components of the story. We decided to focus on these to bring you a list of 25 little known facts about the lore behind The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As you will see, a lot of the folklore shown in the game is darker than you might have remembered. Though heroism is often born from adversity, it seems like Nintendo made an effort to make this depiction of Hyrule extra gloomy.
25 The Beginning Of The Circle
Ocarina of Time became the first game in the chronological order of The Legend of Zelda at the time of its release. Many games released later were revealed as taking place even earlier, with Skyward Sword being the current prequel to everything else. The game’s big bad is Demise, a Demon King who upon defeat swears that his spirit will be reborn in an endless cycle to try and get revenge on Link and Zelda’s descendant. His first known reincarnation, at least at the moment, is shown in Ocarina of Time. That game’s depiction of Ganondorf shows a simple King Of Thieves, as he is then known, who wishes to take over Hyrule but has yet to transform into the deformed Ganondorf. So while Ocarina of Time is no longer first in the timeline, it is still Ganondorf’s first chronological appearance.
24 Raised By The Forest
Link’s origins are mentioned in a quick cut scene after conquering the Forest Temple. The Deku Tree Sprout mentions that Link was born during the Great War that tore Hyrule apart a little over ten years before the game’s events. His mother was wounded during a battle, and she escaped with her son into the Forbidden Forest. There, she entrusted Link to the Great Deku Tree before dying. As for Link’s father, his fate is never mentioned in official material, but internet theories usually have him pegged as a Knight for the Royal Family of Hyrule. No matter the truth about his father, Link’s life was off to a very tragic start, but thankfully the Great Deku Tree turned out to be an adept parent despite his complete inability to move.
23 Don’t Get Lost
While it is usually accepted that most monsters roaming the different dungeons and temples are there because of Ganondorf’s intervention, the evil king is not entirely responsible for every single bad thing that happens in Hyrule. The Lost Woods, near Kokiri Forest, have a spell on them which means certain doom for however decides to brave its treacherous paths. As the Kokiri themselves are so eager to tell you, if an adult becomes lost in the forest, they will be become a Stalfos. On the other hand, if a child gets lost, they will become a Skull Kid. The legend says that they are both stuck in the forest from that point on, which might explain why none of these creatures are particularly friendly.
22 The Darkest Timeline
Though Ocarina of Time is no longer the earliest game in the series’ internal chronology, it remains the focal point of the entire timeline. In fact, the official timeline as shown in the essential book Hyrule Historia states that, with Ocarina of Time, the story splits into three distinct realities. One of them is particularly dark, since it stems from the fact that in that version, Ganondorf actually defeats Link in battle and proceeds to reign over Hyrule for years. This section of the timeline involves the especially bleak NES games, where the story starts with Ganon roaming free over a Hyrule left in ruins. As well, the timeline includes A Link to the Past, the GBC titles, and Link’s Awakening, all of which depict attempts to revive Ganon and its aftermath.
21 A Hollow Victory
Even in sections of the timeline where Link defeats Ganondorf, it must be noted that nothing ever seems to go right for our hero. In none of the winning timeline does Link truly vanquish his foe, for he only manages to seal Ganondorf in the Sacred Realm. The Triforce is not reunited: the Triforce of Power remains with the Dark Lord, which explains how he is able to break free of the seal with ease every once in a while. As for the other parts, the Triforce of Courage remains with Link while the Triforce of Wisdom stays with Zelda. This is why the symbol glows on the back of their hands in the ending of Ocarina of Time, even though evil has been defeated.
20 Time Travel Is Confusing
When Link is successful in getting rid of Ganondorf, he effectively splits the timeline in two further sections. That is because he gets sent back to the past to live his childhood, which is its own reality. However, the timeline he leaves behind is deprived of the Spirit of the Hero since he has left to go back to his original time. The absence of the hero leaves Ganondorf free to attack the next time he breaks away from the Sacred Realms. When that happens, the Goddesses have to get creative, so they decide to flood the whole place, which successfully traps the Demon King underwater, but also destroys Hyrule. This timeline obviously gives place to The Wind Waker and its sequels.
19 You Have To Let Go, Man
Finally, in the timeline where Link returns to his child self, his first order of business is to go back to Hyrule Castle to meet with Zelda. These events are depicted during Ocarina of Time’s credits. He warns her of Ganondorf’s plans, and the Gerudo King is executed without Link’s help because he is not yet an adult. This means that despite all of his memories, he grows up without being remembered as the hero he is. It is confirmed that the Hero’s Shade, the skeleton warrior that guides you through Twilight Princess, is the bitter spirit of the Hero of Time, who wishes to prove his worth by helping the current Link. His hope is that participating in Ganondorf’s downfall will once more enshrine him as the hero he was supposed to be. This knowledge makes Ocarina of Time’s ending very bittersweet all of a sudden.
18 A Shared Heritage
The Temple of Time is an important part of Ocarina of Time for many reasons: it houses the Master Sword, sure, but it is also the only known door towards the Sacred Realm, home of the Triforce. We now know that the Temple of Time was built long before the events of the game by Rauru, the Sage of Light. But why does everything that matters seems to happen on that one tiny parcel of land? That’s because the Temple of Time is built over the ruins of the Sealed Temple of the Goddess Hylia from Skyward Sword. As you will remember, that temple houses a Gate of Time (source of that game’s frequent time travelling) and plays a pivotal role in establishing Hyrule once Link and Zelda move to the surface.
17 One And The Same
The Temple of Time, portal to the Sacred Realm, also connects Ocarina of Time directly to another Zelda game. The Sacred Realm, which houses the Temple of Light, also becomes the Dark World in A Link to the Past, according to Hyrule Historia. The only part of the Sacred Realm we ever see in Ocarina of Time is the Chamber of the Sages, the ethereal place where Link sleeps for seven years. What does this mean? It means that when Ganondorf gets imprisoned in the Sacred Realm over and over, he is not simply held in limbo. He’s just thrown in a fairly comfortable mirror image of Hyrule, since it only becomes the Dark World when he corrupts it with the help of his Triforce of Power. The punishment does not seem so harsh after all.
16 The Many Lives Of The Sage
If you always thought that it was weird that an owl was allowed to talk, even in a game where you can put on a mask and discuss with stones, fear not. Kaepora Gaebora is not a simple ordinary owl. It has been confirmed that your trusty guide, who appears whenever you feel aimless, is the reincarnation of Rauru, the Sage of Light and architect of the Temple of Time. So if you wondered why Rauru was acting so familiar to Link when he wakes him up after his seven year slumber, it’s because he’s basically been accompanying him for most of the game already. This theory had been floating around for a while, but was only confirmed with the released of Hyrule Historia.
15 Too Young To Be Married
Keeping track of the mating rituals of the different tribes in Hyrule must be confusing for someone as young as Link. That’s why when he goes to save Princess Ruto of the Zora from the belly of Jabu-Jabu, he does not seem to understand exactly what he’s getting himself into. According to Zora tradition, by giving Link the Zora Sapphire which he needs to open the Door of Time, Ruto is basically proposing to him. Link doesn’t seem to think much of it, but when they meet again in the future, she fully intends to collect on that debt. Luckily for him, she gets called to be the Sage of Water, making her an incorporeal spirit. Kinda hard to maintain a relationship under those circumstances.
14 The Torture Chamber
Though it is an extremely impractical place to put such a thing, the Bottom of the Well appears to have previously served as a prison and as a medieval torture chamber for The Sheikahs, the original inhabitants of Kakariko Village. The evidences are all there. The dungeon is littered with prison cells, sure, but it also contains crosses and shackles, at the feet of which are pools of dried blood. There’s also the pits of acid, which don’t really have much of a use unless you are planning on dissolving something, and the chamber filled with coffins, which tells us that most people kept at the Bottom of the Well probably never made it out alive. With all of those rotting corpses at the bottom, it would be wise to question the quality of the water coming from that well.
13 Highway To Hell
As terrifying as it is, the Bottom of the Well is only a prelude to the longer and tougher Shadow Temple. After a gruelling gauntlet of puzzles and tests of agility, the temple culminates with a boat ride to the boss’ chamber. Though the English text prior to boarding the boat simply mentions “a ferry to the other world”, the Japanese version would be more accurately translated as such: “If you wanna see the ferry to Hades, come here”. Since Hades is the name of the Greek God who reigns over hell, as well as the name of his kingdom itself, it means that you are taking a boat straight to hell in order to fight Bongo Bongo, the gigantic drum-beating spirit. Speaking of which…
12 Cruel And Unusual Punishment
If we follow the different cut scenes leading to the Shadow Temple, we can see that Bongo Bongo, the boss of the Shadow Temple, escaped from the Bottom of the Well and set fire to Kakariko Village before finding residence in the temple itself. The Bottom of the Well, as we have previously established, used to be some sort of prison, where obviously bad things happened to the population. Since Bongo Bongo’s spirit was hanging around there, we can thus assume that he used to be a prisoner before his demise. Furthermore, during the battle, we can see that both of his hands are cut from the rest of the body. As we know, this was a medieval form of punishment for thieves. As for what happened to the stump where his head should be, no one can tell.
11 Bad Parenting
With Ganondorf having such a mean streak, you might be wondering what happened to him to make him such a pain in the rear. Sure, he is the reincarnation of a vengeful spirit, but maybe there was something in his childhood that caused him to turn the way he did? As it turns out, there was! The poor man was raised by two evil witches, Koume and Kotake. The twins, who guard the Spirit Temple, are over four hundred years old, which is an unusual lifespan for a Gerudo. The one point we have yet to discover is, is Ganondorf the way he is because he was raised by evil witches, or are the witches evil because they support their son who is the reincarnation of a vengeful spirit?
10 Gone For A Long Time
When Link is a kid, he meets Nabooru of the Gerudo, a crafty thief who wants the treasure from the Spirit Temple but needs Link’s help to get in. Eventually, she gets kidnapped by Koume and Kotake, and Link must finish the temple by himself. This takes him seven years into the future, but Nabooru is still nowhere to be seen. It’s only after defeating the Iron Knuckle, the gigantic knight serving as the dungeon’s mini boss, that everything becomes clear. Nabooru is revealed as the Iron Knuckle, only she has no recollection of the past seven years. The witches have kept her under their spell the entire time, basically wasting her best years by forcing her into servitude. Maybe they are just supporting their son, but they might have taken things a bit too far.
9 A People Under Spell
Speaking of the Iron Knuckles, you will find more than one patrolling the corridors of the Spirit Temple. As you fight them, their armour will slowly fall to pieces, eventually revealing the identity of the individual hiding under it. The character model makes it clear that each and every Iron Knuckle in the game is in fact a Gerudo. While the clan has shown in the past that they do not like Link, that was because he was sneaking into their hideout. As for those attacking him in the Spirit Temple and doing Koume and Kotake’s bidding, it is unclear if they are doing it of their own volition, or if they have been put a spell similar to Nabooru. With the kind of damage they do when they swing their weapon, Link probably did not want to stick around long enough to ask.
8 Evolution Is A Mystery
It is unclear how much time passes from the beginning of Ocarina of Time to the end of the Adult Timeline. There is one thing that has been confirmed by text in The Wind Waker, however. There is enough time that passes that some of the races inhabiting Hyrule in Ocarina of Time go through a series of evolution that makes them nearly unrecognizable from their beginnings. The Kokiri, the forest people from Ocarina of Time, change from elfish creatures into the tree-like Korok. As for the Zora, they lose their fish characteristics to become a race of bird people called the Rito. While the Korok seem to erase the Kokiri’s existence from any future game, it must be noted that Breath of the Wild shows the Zora and their evolution, the Rito, living at the same time. The placement of that game into the timeline has not been confirmed yet, however.
7 Time Travel Is Confusing, Part 2
Ocarina of Time was the first time that Nintendo got a little more complex with their Legend of Zelda story. Things got so complex that they even found themselves writing a good old time travel paradox. According to the accordion player in Kakariko Village, Link was the first one to play the Song of Storm as a kid, which then messed up his windmill. He then plays the song to Adult Link to illustrate his point, though he had not learned the song prior to this. Link then goes back to the past to play the song and mess up the windmill, thus fulfilling something the windmill player said had already happened. This loop can go on forever, but one question will never be answered: who played the song first?
6 Goodbye, Lon Lon Ranch
When Link returns to Lon Lon Ranch as an adult, he sees that the cowardly Ingo has taken over from Talon. To set things right, Link must defeat Ingo, with the help of Epona, in a horse race. Upon defeat, Ingo locks the door to the ranch to prevent Link and Epona’s escape, but thankfully that horse can jump over a simple fence. If Shigeru Miyamoto had gotten his way, things would have been even more dramatic. In an interview with IGN, he said that he wanted Ingo to set the ranch on fire in a panic after losing the race, meaning that Epona would have had to jump through flames to escape. The rest of the development team wanted Link to be able to come back to the ranch later, so the idea was abandoned.
5 Is This Sad Or Just Creepy?
Hyrule’s darkest and creepiest places are filled with Redeads, the game’s version of zombies. These creatures can paralyze their victims with a simple shriek, after which they jump them and… hug them to death? Anyway, these unusual monsters can still be slayed with a little patience and strategy. But have you noticed what happens if you kill one? If other Redeads happen to be in the room, they will move closer to their fallen comrade and sit next to it. The corpse will then disappear from the screen, and the remaining Redeads will go back to chasing Link. Nintendo has not confirmed what it means exactly, as it looks like they are either mourning their friend, or eating its carcass. This is either kinda sad, or extremely creepy depending on the angle this takes.
4 Will Anyone Think Of The Kids?
Ocarina of Time can get fairly graphic at times, especially in the final battle against Ganondorf. During his fight with the Evil Lord, small cut scenes will show Link slashing away at his enemy, with blood splashing and freely flowing from his defeated enemy. If you have only played Ocarina of Time on Gamecube, 3DS, the Virtual Console, or a non-gold N64 cartridge, then you have always seen this blood as green, probably showing that the people inhabiting that world are indeed not human. However, this was a late change from the original version. Those lucky enough to obtain the first release of the Gold cartridge have seen Ganondorf bleed red in a fairly gruesome manner. The only place where red blood remains is in the Bottom of the Well dungeon and the Spirit Temple, where it stains the ground near the torture devices found inside.
3 A Tragic End
Buried in the dialogue of Ocarina of Time is what is probably one of the saddest stories for a non-playable character in the entire Legend of Zelda series. Grog, the gloomy guy sitting under a tree in Kakariko Village, tells you as a kid that people, including his parents (and probably you), are disgusting. When you meet him again as an adult, he is sleeping alone in the Lost Woods, which as we have learned previously, is not a good place for non-Kokiri to be. He gives you mushrooms to make potion in exchange for his beloved blue Cucco. When you come back, a Kokiri stands in his place and explains that he got lost and became a Stalfos. Why did he hate his parents? Why did he find humanity disgusting? Is it a simple case of misanthropy, depression, or even child abuse? The truth remains a mystery.
2 Ganondorf’s Murderous Streak
Nobody would mistake Ganondorf for a sane and balanced guy, but the man has a serious genocidal streak. Without ever seeing him do these things on screen, we learn that he is responsible for the death of the Deku Tree. He has also starved the Goron by blocking off the entrance to Dodongo Cavern, apparently their only source of edible rocks on the entire mountain. He also tries to kill every last Zora by freezing them nearly to death. When necessary, he also makes his killing more personal. If you stop by the backstreets of Hyrule Castle Town before heading to the Temple of Time with all three Spiritual Stones, you will meet a soldier sitting on the ground, who explains he was wounded while confronting Ganondorf after he betrayed the King. He then apparently dies, and if you try to talk to him again, the message only says “He’s not moving anymore…”
1 The Darkest Fact Of Them All
While I find Navi to be a perfectly serviceable companion and hint-giver, the reality is that she is probably one of the most hated characters in Ocarina of Time because of her constant nagging and cries of “HEY! LISTEN!” In fact, she was probably the most hated character in the entire series until the introduction of Tingle. If you think her simply being annoying while trying to guide Link was bad, brace yourself: it has been confirmed that originally, Navi was going to be in love with Link. Thankfully, Shigeru Miyamoto dislikes putting too much emphasis on story in his games, and decided that it was unnecessary. The official manga, however, does make it a plot point. Navi literally says “Link… I love you!” before he enters the Temple of Time. Imagine that. Would Ocarina of Time be as beloved if Navi, a simple ball of light with wings, was given an even bigger role?